Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
In the fall of 2002 I attended a Women of Faith conference and one of the speakers spoke on Philippians 4:6-7. She wasn’t my favorite speaker - it wasn’t one of those sermons that make you feel like the speaker is talking straight to you. Little did I know that six months later this would become a verse I would cling to.
In the winter of 2003, I noticed a lump on the side of my neck. I didn’t pay much attention to it until one morning I woke up with my face so swollen, you could hardly see my eyes. I went to the ER, where my family Doctor happened to be on call.
At first, my doctor treated it like an allergic reaction until I showed him the marble sized lump on my neck. He told me I would need a CT scan and a biopsy of the lump, however, it would likely be a month before I would get an appointment. I remember asking him if I should be worried, he calmly said, “We need to check this out, but worrying won’t change anything.”
I was given a biopsy appointment with a surgeon for the following week. It was during that time of waiting that the words “do not be anxious about anything“ came to my mind. In the words of the Women of Faith speaker, “Be anxious about NO THING. “
The night before my appointment we met with our small group for prayer and prayed that God would give wisdom to the Doctor and that I would get a CT scan appointment soon.
Brad and I headed to the biopsy appointment on February 26, 2003. We expected the surgeon to take the biopsy and then it would take weeks for the results. We had a babysitter for our son Graeme, age 3, for the day, so we planned to take advantage and go for lunch and do some shopping.
The doctor did the biopsy, told me I would need to go for blood work, and they would schedule a CT scan, but it would likely take 4-6 weeks. We took the elevator down to the first floor and as we exited the elevator, I heard my name being called. “Pamela, come with me - CT has time right now, they are going to fit you in to their schedule.” I was told to go for bloodwork after the scan and then go back to see the surgeon.
Less than 2 hours later, I sat in front of the Doctor and heard the words, “Pam, you have cancer.”
The doctor insisted I be admitted so they could do more tests to determine what type and stage the cancer was. All we knew was it was lymphoma.
We sat down in the waiting room while arrangements were made to admit me. When Brad left to go the bathroom, the receptionist came from behind the desk and motioned for me to come closer. She pulled me close and whispered in my ear, “We serve a great and mighty God. Could I put you on my church prayer chain?”
Many times since that day I have marveled at that moment. How the receptionist could be so brave to approach me, I’ve even wondered if she was an angel.
The next few days were packed full of scans, blood tests, and x-rays. I think the natural reaction to the word cancer is fear - for me it was no different. I immediately thought I was going to die.
Those 2 days in the hospital I read my bible and prayed, and the Holy Spirit gave me peace. I cried, I begged God for life, I imagined the worst, I hoped for the best, but through it all…peace.
Two days later I was given the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 2B. “If you have to pick a cancer, this is the one you want,” I was told. It would require 8 chemotherapy treatments followed by 20 radiation treatments. The road wouldn’t be easy, but the prognosis was good.
I have so many stories of God's faithfulness through my cancer journey. My husband and I are planners by nature. We are not fly by the seat of your pants people. Over and over God showed us that He was in control and we need not worry. All our needs were met.
As we planned for my second chemotherapy treatment, a friend from out of town offered to take Graeme for 3 days. The day before she called with the news that her whole family had the flu, so taking Graeme wasn’t a good idea.
This threw a curveball at our plans. I panicked and rushed to find replacement childcare. It turned out, my white blood count was too low to have the treatment, so the chemo was pushed back a week. I was happy to have Graeme home with me, and when it was time for my next treatment, my friend’s family had recovered and off Graeme went to spend a few days with them.
Through this, and other experiences, we began to relax and watch God move. The night before an appointment, the phone would ring and someone would offer childcare, a ride, a meal- we would sit in our living room giddy with anticipation, looking forward to how our creative God would meet our needs.
We began to understand first-hand the words in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
I am now 16 years cancer free. It has been a journey. The first 3 years post-cancer were harder for me emotionally than the time with cancer. I could do nothing to make sure the cancer wouldn’t return. All I could do was trust God.
I went through a period of almost two years of daily headaches - the pain was in my jaw, ear, under my eye, the back of my head...I was convinced that I had a brain tumor that no one was catching.
After seeing doctors, chiropractors, and massage therapists, my dentist finally sent me to a specialist who could help me. All the pain I was feeling was from clenching my teeth at night.
As a result, I started a therapy using a mouth splint to prevent me from clenching. However, I wasn’t see a lot of improvement.
After a particularly discouraging appointment one day, I came home upset and afraid from something the specialist had said to me. I was crying as I told Brad about it. Graeme, now about 7 years-old came into the room and said, “Mom, why are you crying? Are you ok?"
“I just had a hard day at my appointment, but I will be okay,” I answered.
“Well, Pastor Chris tells us that if we are upset, we should ask God if there is something He wants to say to us. Should we do that?”
“Um, well ok.”
Off he went, “Dear God, my mom is crying. Is there anything You want to say to us?”
Immediately Joshua 1:9 popped into my head. The first words are, “Be strong and courageous.” I instantly panicked - if I’m being told to be courageous it must mean I will need courage for something bad coming at me.
Graeme opened his eyes and looked at us. ”Did God tell you anything?”
Brad said no. I lied and said no.
Graeme said, well I did, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
It was the exact verse that God had given me, but out of fear I didn’t get past the first four words, “Be strong and courageous.” There was an incredible promise to follow, “Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for I am with you wherever you go.”
I tell this story often, for how can anyone dispute that God still speaks personally to us today, when he gave the same verse at the same time to two different people.
In 2006 we were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Peyton. She brought so much life, healing, humour, and joy into our lives. She is a miracle given that I was able to conceive even after having undergone chemotherapy treatments. God has been so faithful!
In conclusion, I’d like to share a song that has meant so much to me!
About the Author:
Pam is a wife to Brad, a mom to Graeme and Peyton, and most recently their dog Harper. She is a "couch coach" to the Winnipeg Jets and Blue Bombers. She loves traveling, recipes, cooking, Starbucks, and trying new restaurants.
If you would like to send Pam a message, email email@example.com and put her name in the subject line.